Is perfection the enemy of good enough?

  • Published
  • By Lt Col. Troy Davis
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing command post
You may have heard the expression "perfection is the enemy of good enough". With the continued down-sizing of our armed forces, there may be some merit to this adage, at least in the near term. Can we continue to do even more with less? Along these lines, I believe we have exceeded the realm of realistic and sustainable expectations from our people in many areas. Given that failure is not an option, what do we now do? In some cases, maybe we don't need to perform the function anymore or at least not to the level expected in the past. In other cases, we'll need to improve efficiency by opening our minds to "think outside of the box." The trick is identifying where to "cut the fat" and where to "polish the process" as we transition.

When trying to make a decision on whether to "cut the fat" or "polish the process," three questions can be asked. First, is the value added by the process/product worth the current cost to all involved? This can be a subjective decision; try to keep it as objective as possible. An answer sometimes involves considerable research and may require you to sell your idea to leadership. In the end, if the answer to this question is an emphatic yes, then the process is a target for polishing. Second, does the current process produce a product with lasting significance? Face it, how often have you seen a document go through countless rewrites or edits only to be temporarily retained or shredded within the week. If the product will not be a part of permanent record then perhaps perfection is the enemy of good enough. In the end, if the process stopped or the product was not produced, could all involved survive without it? If the answer is yes, then maybe it's time to cut the fat.

Finally, as we go through this challenging transition, don't forget that people are not perfect and mistakes are going to be made. In many situations, experience can come from making mistakes and mistakes are often the road to personal growth and increased wisdom. To that effect, never forget our one team, one fight motto. Prying for information on who's at fault can be destructive to morale and a waste of our precious resources. Before traveling down the witch hunt path, ask yourself if this is a unique event or a trend. For a unique event with minimal impact to the mission, perhaps we can just accept it as a learning experience. If it's a trend, then we probably need to investigate further. On a similar note, remember there is a difference between a mistake and negligence; individuals who are negligent, not the group, must be held accountable. Last of all, never forget you are a part of the world's finest Air Force serving the world's best nation. I take pride every day serving alongside each of you, particularly our young Airmen who have traveled abroad to do the real work.